Caffeine and Blood Sugar Control

Caffeine and Blood Sugar Control

Does anyone remember this catchy jingle, “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up is Folgers in Your Cup!”?

Caffeine in the morning

For many of us, having a cup of coffee in the morning is part of the daily routine. Coffee along with tea and soda are three major sources of caffeine. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 80 percent of adults in the U.S. consume caffeine every day.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that is commonly used to increase alertness and decrease drowsiness. It is a naturally occurring substance found in more than 60 plants. The average adult consumes 300 mg of caffeine each day.

I recently read an article from the Journal of Caffeine Research: Caffeine, Glucose Metabolism, and Type 2 Diabetes. This article reviewed a number of studies showing evidence that moderate caffeine intake (200-350 mg/day) may increase insulin resistance as well as increase the glucose response to carbohydrate intake.

Caffeine and type 2 diabetes goals

Insulin resistance is a characteristic feature of type 2 diabetes. For those who do not have diabetes, being insulin resistant increases the risk of developing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The exact mechanism of how caffeine increases insulin resistance is unknown. One proposed explanation is that caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones (epinephrine and cortisol), which have hyperglycemic effects, stimulating the liver to produce glucose and inhibit insulin action.

According to a diabetes educator, Gary Scheiner, author of Think Like a Pancreas, caffeine causes blood sugar to raise by promoting the break down of fat (instead of glucose) for energy in addition to stimulating the liver to produce glucose.

Should you eliminate caffeine completely?

The article from the Journal of Caffeine Research concluded that more research is needed to determine if those with type 2 diabetes or those at risk for the disease should abstain from caffeine.

Until more research is done, you can test yourself

Consider checking your blood sugar 1-2 hours after a meal in which you consumed a caffeinated beverage. How does your blood sugar compare to when you have no caffeine at a meal? If you notice that your blood sugar is consistently elevated it may be worthwhile to cut back on your caffeine intake.

How much caffeine is in your favorite beverages?

BeverageAmount Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, Brewed8 oz163
Espresso1.5 oz77
Black Tea8 oz42
Green Tea8 oz25
Diet Coke12 oz46
Diet Pepsi12 oz34
Diet Mountain Dew12 oz54
Sugar Free Red Bull8.4680

What are some good caffeine alternatives?

BeverageAmount Caffeine (mg)
Decaf Coffee, Brewed8 oz6
Herbal Tea8 oz0
Diet Sprite12 oz0
Diet Sierra Mist12 oz0
Diet Tonic Water12 oz0

Other tips:

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Feeling well-rested may decrease your need for caffeine.
  • Are you nervous about going cold turkey? Consider substituting half of your regular coffee with half decaf. As you adjust to the change you can gradually decrease the regular coffee amount and increase the decaf coffee amount.

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